Today: February 21, 2024

The Squad

When all radio contact is lost with a remote military base high in the mountains, the Colombian authorities, fearing a terrorist attack, send a nine-man squad of soldiers in to investigate.

When all
radio contact is lost with a remote military base high in the mountains, the
Colombian authorities, fearing a terrorist attack, send a nine-man squad of
soldiers in to investigate.

Deploying in a thick, almost supernatural fog, the squad
enters the base and finds it deserted.
Something bad has clearly happened though; meals lie half-eaten, there
are signs that a struggle has clearly taken place, blood and gore splatter the
walls. But there are no
bodies. Was the outpost attacked
by guerillas or is there a more sinister explanation? Then the squad finds a woman imprisoned in a storeroom,
chained and walled up alive, strange, superstitious symbols and markings
covering the walls. Is she an
innocent victim? A terrorist? Is she, as some of the men come to
believe, a witch? And what is the deal with all the weird little Blair Witch-style wind chimes and
ornaments made out of bone?

As darkness falls and tensions build, the squad is
fractured by paranoia, fear and suspicion haunted by the specters of past
guilt. One by one the soldiers
find themselves turning on one another as they are consumed by madness, despair
and death.

If you feel suffocated by an overwhelming sense of déjà vu while
watching writer/director Jaime Osorio
Marquez
’s debut feature The Squad,
do not be alarmed. If, as the
protagonists give in to their baser instincts and are destroyed, you think:
“I’ve seen this film before,” you’re probably right. You have seen this
film before. It just wasn’t
Colombian. You’re probably thinking of K-horror flick R-Point, probably one of the finest horror movies of the last
decade, which saw an unlucky squad of Korean soldiers meet a sticky end during
the Vietnam War while looking for a lost patrol. Or maybe you’re thinking of the underrated Brit horror The Bunker, which saw a squad of German
soldiers (among them Jason Flemyng
and Eddie Marsan) come to a sticky
end while investigating an abandoned bunker during WW2.

That’s not to say The Squad is bad. It’s not. It’s an edgy, moody, little slowburner of a film with a
cloying atmosphere you could cut with a knife. Cinematographer Alejandro
Moreno
fills the frame with some fantastic imagery but the thing that
strikes you most about the film is the sound, or rather the lack of sound. The sound design is taut, spare, filled
with heavy, ominous silences. The
performances are all good, even if the characters are a little
indistinguishable from one another, and there’s some fantastic jump out of your
skin moments. Particularly good is
a confused shootout in a virtual whiteout as the soldiers jump at nothing,
firing blindly in the fog. And the
suggestion of past sins eating the squad alive is nicely underplayed. But while the tension builds nicely to
hysterical levels, the payoff fails to satisfy and the film’s elliptical nature
becomes frustrating. The Squad is
an interesting little horror movie with style to burn and we’re going to be
seeing a lot more of director Marquez but ultimately the film just doesn’t
satisfy. And you won’t be able to
shake that sense of déjà vu.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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